Sunday, August 11, 2013

How Has Your Approach to Marketing Strategy Changed?

As Professor Don Schultz mentions “it now seems fairly clear, we’ll never go back to the way things were in the latter part of the 20th and almost the first decade of the 21st centuries. Those halcyon days of economic growth and prosperity, at least for the majority of the global and national economies, are gone but, unfortunately, not forgotten. Vestiges of them remain in the empty, uncompleted or abandoned homes, vacation villas, boats and shopping centres that litter the landscape.” 

Don Schultz also highlighted that “the ‘go-go’ years of the recent past pose major changes for marketing, advertising and branding. Like the financial structures that must be reinvented, we’ll also need to reinvent our marketing and communication concepts, particularly how we think brands work, what they contribute and how they can be developed to provide real, not artificial, value - these changes are transformational – and what must be done is going to be so massive that most of our traditional approaches and methodologies simply may not be up to the task.  

Take marketing measurement and accountability for example. Who today can propose using the last three or four years of sales, expenses, output levels or whatever as the benchmark against which to create statistical marketing mix models that really make any sense? Yet we continue to pay homage to past events, past research and past experiences. That’s sort of like basing an economic forecast of success on the few years prior to New Orleans’ Hurricane Katrina. It makes no sense, yet we continue to do it simply because it’s the way we’ve always done it.” 

The other danger with these current times is that in many cases, way too many cases, the blind are leading the transformational change and ‘selling’ solutions that simply won’t stand up to the next ‘hurricane’ that comes along – and what’s even more amazing is many companies, again too many, are willing to spend money on unproven and unsubstantiated approaches to marketing and branding in the desperate hope that their ‘sales and revenue’ will increase in these difficult times. It’s like people with a life threatening virus who will start to believe anything that purports to be a ‘cure’ for their life threatening disease, where they are prepared to spending ‘big bucks’ just on wanting to believe that this is the cure. 

The last real transformation in marketing and branding occurred in the 1970s. Radical changes in traditional marketing and advertising thinking and practice occurred: a move from mass to one-to-one; the shift of money from consumer investment to trade support; an increasing focus on measurement and accountability of the entire marketing function; and, most importantly, the rise of brands and branding as the darlings of the marketing process. 

Take a product, any product, slap a name on it, come up with a clever marketing program, raise the price and take the money to the bank. Rising economic prosperity resulted in many of what today we believe are the basic principles of brands and branding. It was conspicuous consumption, supported by brands that shouted largesse. They were badge brands that could be worn on the feet, called out in the bar.  

“Brand it and they will come” seemed to sum up the 1990s and early years of 2000. 

As Don Schultz concluded, “the challenge, of course, is how we change and what we change into. Unfortunately, our western approaches of siloed, functional thinking and organization work against us. Clearly, we live in a holistic, networked world. In short, we’re all in this together. To bring some kind of future out of the present chaos is going to require a concentrated effort; not just of marketers, but through the efforts of consumers as well. If we really understand that the period in which we are living is transformational, not just transitional, that will help. But, we’ll need new concepts, new approaches, new methodologies and new thinking.” 

The fundamentals of business fortunately never change, like having a solid, well communicated but flexible strategy; the talent to implement it and the right systems to monitor ‘market and environmental’ information in real time. Yet it’s often the flexibility to adapt and transform that can cause problems especially when ‘history’ only helps so much – like, in telling you what not to do. So organisations need to reinvent themselves and their products and services in the ‘new’ global economy – that means being open to ideas but staying results focused and remembering the old saying “that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. 


Schultz, D. (2009).Transformational Branding. Marketing Management; Sep/Oct, Vol. 18 Issue 5, p.6-7.


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